This post will cover the pre-IEP preparation process. I do not know how much this process differs from state to state, but given that California has a unique system of regional centers, we can assume the IEP is somewhat different.
Another caveat: my son was diagnosed at age 2, so this is for his first IEP at age 3. An older child may have a different path to the IEP.
Six Months Out
Because of my son’s age of entry into special ed, he had a caseworker at our Regional Center as we moved into the public school special ed phase of his education. This meant a lot of Regional Center involvement in this process.
The first step in the process is to request the transition meeting and I would recommend you try to set it up to occur at least four months out.
We had a transition meeting with our school district and our Regional Center caseworker. We were told to inquire about setting the meeting six months out, and I believe that’s probably necessary. Unfortunately, we were dealing with other things at the time and given the back and forth trying to find a day that worked for all three parties, this meeting occurred at three months out instead which I don’t think is far enough in advance of the IEP.
Four Months Out
Ideally, this is when you will being doing the transition meeting. Ours was late, but the recommendations and information still holds.
I brought the following to the meeting, but did not give it to the school district rep for various reasons:
-Written request for the school district to assess my son
-Written request to observe my son at his early intervention program
-Written request to receive a copy of the school district’s assessment report prior to the IEP meeting
-Written request to be allowed to tour the possible programs/classrooms where he might be placed
When I arrived at the meeting, the school district rep was perfectly nice but was not forthcoming with much useful information. I may have set a bad tone for the meeting with my data obsession. I had spent a few hours on research prior to the meeting and asked them about data they had on students in special ed in the District and their educational outcomes. The rep looked at me like I was asking how many students were from Mars. Fine, I’m used to being rebuffed on data, but the rest of the conversation went along the same lines.
My attempts to get a head start on the assessment were rejected, which was not cool given how things played out.
Three Months Out
Submit your request in writing for an assessment of your child.
The school district by law has 15 days to provide an assessment plan for your child.
One curveball we got at about day 14 of the 15 days was that we had not registered our son for school so they couldn’t give us an assessment plan because we weren’t in the system.
We then had a family emergency that prevented us from registering that week and wouldn’t you know it, the next week was spring break.
The following week mwe got him registered and finally got the assessment plan. But at this point, we were in a tight spot because his third birthday was very close, and we’d wasted two weeks on a random thing that probably wasn’t even necessary but nevertheless was put in our path.
Two Months Out
Make friends with the assessors and make sure to get the contact info for the psychologist writing the final assessment.
If the assessment is not in the classroom itself of your likely placement, be sure to get a tour even if it is after hours so you know where your child will be. Make the request in writing.
Do not oversell or undersell what your child can do. Also, we’ve known other kids who were not given an autism diagnosis despite being autistic and that will impact the offer from the school district, sometimes excluding an offer altogether. The Regional Center will do an assessment prior to the school assessment so if that comes back without an autism diagnosis obviously you’ve got problems if your child does have autism. Keep an eye on this as this assessment comes at least a month before the school district assessment.
One Month Out
If you have not already submitted your written request for a copy of the assessment prior to the IEP, do so now.
You may have gotten your IEP date or not. Ours was very late but I’ve heard of others having their IEP weeks prior to the third birthday.
Ask any therapists or case managers that you think should be part of the IEP to attend the meeting and notify the District.
The remainder of this post is now for time period before your IEP, not child’s birthday.
Two Weeks Out
Assuming all therapists and psychologists have finished running their battery of tests on your sweet little child, follow up with the psychologist to request a copy of the assessment via email.
Compile a list of your educational concerns for your child. I waited to do this because I didn’t want to have to redo it should he make some gains, but you may be more comfortable doing so, in which case, finalize the list at this point.
You may also have specific goals you’d like to address, which you can bring too though you may not end up using them as most of the goals are suggested by the therapists.
I brought 12 concerns and about 15-20 goals. I read the list of concerns to them (the list they gave in the draft IEP was two items deep, a.k.a., not the whole list), but didn’t touch the goals.
One Week Out
Familiarize yourself with the laws around a Free, Appropriate Public Education (F.A.P.E.) and the IEP.
Next in the series will be the IEP itself.